I Instagrammed this image of Macy’s homework a few weeks ago. After she had carefully traced the outline of this word she was searching for, she asked me if they would let her do it this way. I said no. She sighed and declared, “Well, they should,” even as she flipped her pencil over to start erasing.
I was surprised by her recognition of a very real yet ambiguous THEY. For Macy this was some combination of her teachers and maybe the creators of the word search. But maybe it was larger too. Maybe she was asking about the world in general. What are the rules? And who is enforcing them? Or if it isn’t really about the rule, maybe it’s about the standard practice, the status quo. How is this done? In essence, what is expected of me and am I measuring up?
The other thing I noticed about Macy’s reaction was her resigned reflex to begin erasing. Even though she felt like it should be okay. Even though she had worked so hard to find that beautifully creative and clever solution to her search. She started erasing.
And in the moment, I let her. But as I’ve been thinking about it since, I wish I had told her to leave it. Her teacher would have had a good laugh over it, and eventually Macy will run into enough word search puzzles to figure out the rules. We need rules. But maybe we’ll get lucky and she’ll keep finding new ways to solve the problem, despite unwritten expectations. Maybe she’ll keep going.